Outgrowing Comfort Zones

Unpleasant territory begs for ministry. 

Comfort zones have a strong grip for a good reason. They provide comfort, security, and stability. However, healthy growth and ministry often requires stepping outside of what is comfortable.

Alumnus Christa (Rich) Sapp (Church Ministries graduate, ’08) is a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mom of three.  In recent years she has faced deep personal loss, physical challenges, and spiritual battles. Each one has shoved her far beyond her comfort zone.  Through those experiences, Christa says she learned a lot about God – especially His sovereignty over her life. 

Last November, Christa found herself far outside of her comfort zone. Again.  

Together with a team from her church, she took a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. It was not the trip that was stretching for her (she has been on multiple mission trips). It was the focus: ministering to women trapped in the world of sex trafficking.

Working alongside local missionaries, Christa spent hours in the street directly in front of a brothel.

Engaging in conversation with approximately 40 women, Christa saw that most of them were desperate but resigned. Their experiences had conditioned them into fully believing they were unfit for more than a life being used by others. The team greeted the women personally. They offered snacks, drinks, and invitations to the ministry center later that evening.

That evening, the ministry center team served as a haven of peace for a few hours. The women were treated to pedicures. They learned how to do some simple crafts for the simple pleasure of creating and enjoying something beautiful.  The team sang worship songs with the women and listened to their stories. With kindness and compassion, they were shown their immense value in the eyes of God. 

“There were probably 10 faces I’d just seen on the street, coming into the center… and knowing the girls were going right back out to the street… knowing that they could hear the love of God but still feel like they have to go back to that because they have nothing else… it was gut wrenching.    It can take a long time to see results – it’s a long process.  And there are success stories, which is beautiful to see because they in turn go out and minister to these girls.”

The ministry center creates a safe place to introduce the women to Jesus and hopefully develop a lasting relationship with them. The local ministry remains in contact with as many as are willing, with the goal of offering hope amid their tragic circumstances, and ultimately a way out of that life.

Christa says her time in the center forced her to confront some fears, including health risks. 

“These are women actively in the sex trade.   We weren’t just going to a center serving those who are coming out of it. I know several had HIV among other diseases.  To hug them, sit with them on the couch… it was stretching for me…  It took a lot of prayer and trusting that whatever comes from this, my comfort level isn’t important.  Being out there and sharing God with them, I had never felt closer to the ministry of Jesus…”  

She described it as an extremely humbling experience that caused her to examine her own mindset about and perspective.

“Some people would say ‘how can they sell themselves and then come 10 steps down the road and sing songs to God?’  But it challenges your mindset on the idea that you have to be a certain thing before you can come to church.  They weren’t really in church, but they were willingly going into a ministry center and hearing about God.  It also reminded me how blessed I am.  That could have been me.  But I was born in America to Godly parents, was not subjected to abuse… I have no right whatsoever to feel better than anyone.”

Christa says it was especially hard knowing that the constant stream of clients (mostly tourists) did not stop.

“Jesus died for them too. That’s a whole different story about the grossness of humanity, but those clients… as much as I hate that they’re involved in this – they need Jesus too!  Jesus interacted with those that no one else would touch.  There is no room for judgment on the unsaved.  It is so complex.  It took me weeks to process this trip.”

Stretching her comfort zone deepened Christa’s love for missions and challenged her own perspective on ministry in her home church.

For her, it brought into startling focus the complexity of humanity and the importance of extending love and compassion beyond the confines of traditional ministry.

In Christa’s experience, being out of her comfort zone has prompted growth that would not have happened otherwise.  It drove her to a deeper understanding of God’s sovereignty. It opened her eyes afresh to the desperate need for the gospel. It challenged her with a closer look at the unsurpassed compassion of Jesus for the lost.

She challenges believers to reach beyond their own comfort zones and really see the people who need the gospel. 

“Stretching your comfort zone, getting out of what you think is your ministry is so important — it is so much broader than your little bubble.  It’s more than the worship team or the children’s ministry.  We encourage each other in the church but until we go out there, it won’t make any difference to them (the lost).”

Christa is married to Stephen Sapp (’09), and they have three children, Ethan, Caleb, and Wendy.  Stephen pastors Crosspoint Church in West Harrison, Indiana.


To learn more about this specific ministry in the Dominical Republic, visit https://keithandamymelugin.com/

U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Person Report https://www.state.gov/reports/2023-trafficking-in-persons-report/

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